International Women’s Day: Meet the women behind World Art Dubai – News

The female trio at the origin of the largest contemporary art fair in the region. Guided by principles such as “diversity is beautiful” and “art heals”, these women managed to organize another show (third time) during the pandemic



WK230222-SK-ARTISTSBatool Artists Jafri, Petra Kaltenbach and Samar Kamel in Dubai. February 23, 2022. Photo by Shihab.

Published: Thu 3 March 2022, 20:19

The energy in the room is contagious and the vibe is simply eclectic. Everything seems to be on the table. The conversations speak of mutual respect for each other, as for all forms of art – the old, the present and the future. It only takes an afternoon to have lunch with these ladies and you can see why World Art Dubai (WAD), the region’s largest contemporary art fair, is a resounding success. This is the third time in a row that the ladies have held the fair during a pandemic.

As they gather around the table, we learn that they all come from different countries (Egypt, Germany and Pakistan) and how their beautiful backgrounds hold together the organization of the exhibition, how their goal is to open doors for local artists, how they manage to meet the needs of a global audience, and how they are on top of the game (we engage in a lively conversation about NFTs, just as we talk about how Germans love sparkling water and where to eat the best Sheer Khurma, and sort of going back to kissing Klimt as NFT and the community aspect of the show). The bonhomie shared by the three women is visible during the show, which opens its doors from March 16 to 19 at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

Samar Kamel

Samar Kamel’s works examine cultural attitudes towards women and aspire to transform stereotypes

Samar Kamel moved to Dubai in 1992 from Egypt and stayed there for five years, traveled to other Gulf countries and returned to Dubai in 2004. An artist, curator and author, she is known for her work which examines cultural attitudes towards women, and she aims to transform stereotypes through vibrant depictions of the modern woman through painting and writing.

Three of you come from different countries and serve a diverse community. What are your guiding thoughts during curation?

To tell you the truth, it’s a smart decision on the part of the WAD team. We have been handpicked to form this diversity network. WAD is an international fair and it goes without saying that the team of curators had to represent different backgrounds. Over the years, together, we have overcome every challenge that has come our way. As curators, we have always succeeded in bringing diversity to light.

What is your favorite element of this WAD edition?

This must be the message that the fair conveys, that the world has begun to heal. WAD provides a safe space for artists around the world to share the arts, while feeling safe, compassionate and vibrant.

Organizing WAD for the third time in a pandemic, what were the highlights for you?

As a curator, artist, and citizen, I have been following the news with impatience, waiting for a sign of a return to normal so that our plans for WAD will not be shaken, but fulfilled. If I remember correctly, WAD was the only art fair that took place in 2020 (when the pandemic was the “biggest thing”), but we adapted to the situation. Now our eighth edition comes to life with confidence. It is our role as curators to instill safety and confidence in the public.

NFTs are…

An opportunity to seize technology. An artist now has NFT, which cannot work without the artist’s creation. I also believe that NFTs will make art accessible to sectors that were not interested before.

What’s the next big thing to watch in the art world?

The fact that art gained a new base, which is the business world (was unthinkable!), so I would say the next step would be unpredictable.

One reason why everyone (not just art lovers, buyers) should visit WAD…

We have many new attractions, but my favorite crowdpuller is a new curatorial activation, Brush a Stroke. It is an unfinished painting, with parts left blank, like in a coloring book, which visitors color over four days. Every visitor can participate, and at the end of the fair, one of them (via a draw) will take the painting home.

Petra Kaltenbach

Petra Kaltenbach’s works are Arabic love poems NFT (letters) told through German eyes

Petra Kaltenbach left Germany for Dubai in 2004. She is a visual and video artist, graphic designer and curator. With her background in graphic design, she gradually moved into painting and video art, often interweaving her paintings with on-board technologies such as QR codes. Its NFT wallet started in 2021.

Three of you come from different countries and serve a diverse community. What are your guiding thoughts during curation?

Different countries mean different cultures and also different perceptions of art. Interestingly, despite our different educational backgrounds, we curators are clear about what we want to show and what we don’t. Dubai is an international destination and therefore WAD caters to different tastes. Additionally, we have now expanded into various art forms, including drama, music, dance, fashion, and more. We’ve been hosting the show since 2019, and the show is only getting better and bigger. Our exhibiting artists and galleries are the soul of the event and visitors are happy to feel the art/soul and the future so close! Through the various stand designs, we encompass a wide range of affordability and quality. One of the biggest challenges of WAD is to always surprise the art lover with the works of the artists.

What is your favorite element of this WAD edition?

One of my favorites is Leon Loewentraut’s Global Gate. The original artwork (over 20m tall) is placed in the city center (Burj Park), and at WAD we will have a 5m tall model of it where people can click great selfies. Last but not least, I love our Instagrammable Corner and the Art Walk, in the latter where artists walk the ramp with curated curated artwork.

Curating WAD for the third time during a pandemic, what were the highlights for you?

On a positive note, the pandemic has given us some good things. Our room layout has become more generous, and the cohesion of local artists to provide a good art exhibition to the world is immense. I can feel the joy of the local artists. I can speak for all of us (conservatives), that it was and is truly heartbreaking to see how grateful people are, and I’m not just talking about the artists, whose activities have been so severely curtailed by Covid- 19, but overall everyone is optimistic that the art and artists are still there and are able to “celebrate” this together in such a spectacle. Because that’s WAD, an arts honor.

NFTs are…

…another attempt to legalize and establish digital art.

What’s the next big thing to watch in the art world?

I think we all have to wait and see how digital art will take over the world, and I watch it carefully. And I love this idea because many “classic” artists/galleries/art lovers etc. need this artistic revolution to break this huge barrier and accept that another taboo has been abolished by art.

Batool Jafri

Batool Jafri’s works lift the veil of the layers that exist in each of us and show beyond the facade

Batool Jafri moved to Dubai in 2005 from Qatar. She is originally from Karachi, Pakistan. Curator, mixed media artist and educator, Batool creates powerful and evocative work on the theme of the human mind and soul.

The three of you come from different countries and care for a diverse community, what are your guiding thoughts during conservation?

I think diversity is the most beautiful thing in the world. Everything that makes us unique and different is what creates beautiful fabric. I like the fact that we all come from different parts of the world as it allows us to see the work and concepts from different angles and to constantly learn and grow.

What is your favorite element of this WAD edition?

I love the art walk. It’s something we as a team do many times over the four days of each year, featuring selected artists and their pieces and making them the star of the show that day. It’s so nice to see artists, real people walking up the ramp with their work and it always brings so much joy and joy.

NFTs are…

Another art form that makes it easier for people to access work they can love and enjoy for years to come.

What’s the next big thing to watch out for in the art world??

Well, this year at WAD we have an NFT section, and as today’s market demands, it’s definitely the next big thing to watch. We’re already planning an even bigger section for next year around NFTs, especially with the metaverse taking shape. People should also watch out for high-profile artists who are collaborating with big brands to create skins and other merchandise that will be releasing in the metaverse soon.

One reason why everyone (not just ART lovers, shoppers) should visit WAD…

I can give you several reasons, not just one, and each is equally important. Basically, why not? If you want to know what’s going on in the art world, if you want to decorate, if you want to delve into your artistic side, attend a fashion show, see live art or just have a good time, come to the WAD.

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